Seattle (AP) – A Washington state jury on Wednesday awarded the Lummy Indian tribe $ 595,000 for the collapse of a net pen growing Atlantic salmon in 2017 – raising fears that the event could cause damage to wild salmon runs and prompting the legislature to ban it. Non-native fish farming.
About 250,000 Atlantic salmon escaped into the Salish Sea when a net pen owned by Cook Aquaculture – a floating enclosure off the island of Cyprus – collapsed. The Northwest Washington tribe quickly got ready to catch fish and the tribe’s fishermen were rewarded with more than 43,000 retrievals at a rate of $ 30 – a total of $ 1.3 million.
Lummy Nation sued in 2020, claiming that although the fishermen had paid compensation for their efforts, the company had not reimbursed the tribal government for its response to the spill, including managing fishermen and tracking Atlantic salmon they had brought.
In addition, the tribe “existential threat” sought damage related to the impending collapse of its culture.
The King County Superior Court jury on Wednesday refused to pay damages on that cultural harm claim, but it granted the tribe $ 595,000 on charges of negligence and unjust affluence against Cook, the tribe’s lawyers said.
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Lummy Staff Attorney James Stroud said in an email that the tribe was pleased to find that the jury had to pay compensation to the tribe “to clean up Cook’s mess”.
“We regret having to litigate this issue, and the Lummy Nation is committed to improving the health of the Salish Sea waters,” Stroud wrote.
A spokesman for Cook Aquaculture, which has more than 10,000 employees in nine countries, did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment.
The Washington Department of Ecology fined the company $ 332,000 for the fall, accusing it of negligence, including improper maintenance of the nets. Cook has agreed to pay $ 2.75 million to settle a clean water act lawsuit filed by a company called Wildfish Conservancy. The money was diverted to environmental projects that would benefit Salmon and Killer Wales in Puget Sound, as well as the group’s legal fees.
At the time of the crash, Cook was planning to upgrade his net pens.
Cook argues that there is no evidence that the escaped Atlantic salmon survived in April 2018. In fact, despite attempts by humans to establish an Atlantic salmon population on the West Coast, those attempts have failed, company lawyers say.
“Atlantic salmon do not survive here and do not compete or breed with wild salmon,” they wrote in a trial brief. “Plaintiff himself attempted to cultivate Atlantic salmon in Washington waters in the 1970s – and failed.”
Since the Legislature banned Atlantic salmon farming in state waters in 2018, Cook is raising local steelhead trout instead. In January, the Washington Supreme Court unanimously upheld Cook’s permission to do so.